Soccer: Euro 2012 Crew connections

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

This month most soccer fans are fixated on Euro 2012, the tournament in which 16 European national teams are battling for continental supremacy. Held every four years at the midway point between World Cups, it's arguably the biggest event in soccer besides the World Cup.

What does this have to do with the Crew? Not much, but a little. With our local club headed to Chicago this Saturday to face the Fire, I'll attempt to put this in context for the soccer neophyte.

UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) oversees Euro 2012, but the tournament is not to be confused with the UEFA Champions League. Euro 2012 features national teams (Germany vs. The Netherlands, Spain vs. Croatia, etc.) and runs consecutively for three and a half weeks. Whereas the Champions League features top professional clubs from across Europe (FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich) and runs year-round.

The Crew has participated in our continent's equivalent, known as the CONCACAF Champions League. (CONCACAF stands for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.) CONCACAF also has an equivalent to Euro 2012, which also happens every four years and is known as the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The latest Gold Cup happened in 2011; the U.S. lost 4-2 to Mexico in the final.

Crew coach Robert Warzycha hails from Poland, which is co-hosting Euro 2012 with Ukraine. Warzycha traveled to his home country last week to attend some of the Euro matches.

Stoke City, the English Premier League club that's visiting Columbus for an exhibition match against the Crew on July 24, features two players that made Ireland's roster for Euro 2012, midfielder Glenn Whelan and forward Jon Walters. Sure, Ireland was eliminated after a miserable 0-3 showing in Group C, but at least they made it to the tournament, which is more than Stoke teammate Peter Crouch can say. Crouch, a star striker, was considered a snub from England's roster.

Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire

8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 23

TV: Fox Sports Ohio